Alacritude, LLC, which has been promising a complete retooling of its online research services, has just announced it is changing its company name to HighBeam Research, LLC, and launching a new flagship service called HighBeam Research. The new service incorporates Alacritude's eLibrary and Researchville services and will soon add an enhanced version of the company's Encyclopedia.com service as well. HighBeam Research offers both customizable access to free Web content and subscription access to the proprietary eLibrary database. HighBeam Research is aimed at individuals doing serious business, educational, and personal research, as well as the SOHO (small office, home office) market.
Patrick Spain, founder, chairman, and CEO of HighBeam Research, sees the new service as filling an important niche. "Until now, a research service like this was only available to large enterprises—individuals were forced to make do with less effective research options, such as advertiser-driven free online search engines. HighBeam Research helps its members to become effective researchers by bridging the vast gap between free online search engines and high-end information services that large enterprises utilize."
In August 2002, Spain and a group of individual investors purchased eLibrary and Encyclopedia.com from Tucows, Inc. and formed Alacritude (http://newsbreaks.infotoday.com/nbreader.asp?ArticleID=17104), with the goal of providing "Tiffany-quality" search results at "Wal-Mart prices." Spain was also adamant that he wanted to develop a service that did more than just provide content. He wanted to aid the research process and provide tools for finding, organizing, and delivering answers. In October 2002, Alacritude acquired Researchville.com and worked to enhance its Web metasearching technology. During 2003, the company developed a new user interface and an improved and more flexible technology platform to integrate the three services into what it calls a "research engine," to distinguish it from search engines, which Spain says seem more oriented to facilitate e-commerce.
The HighBeam eLibrary database has doubled in size in the past year and now comprises an extensive archive of more than 28 million documents from 2,600 sources—a collection of articles from leading publications, updated daily, and going back as far as 20 years. Sources include leading business, industry, and general interest newspapers, newsletters, periodicals, magazines, journals, radio and television transcripts, and images. The content is supplied by aggregators like ProQuest and Gale, plus some independent content providers.
HighBeam eLibrary offers natural language searching, Boolean searches (using AND, OR, and AND NOT), and advanced searching options with limits by publication, date, author, or publication name. The results page lets users refine a search by relevancy or date, by source, or pick from a list of related topics to search with the keywords. Search results are automatically clustered in related topics. Articles and searches can be saved to personalized online folders. eLibrary uses the FAST search engine, which is known for its powerful alerting and clustering features, as well as speed and relevancy of results.
HighBeam Web, accessed from a separate tab, lets users metasearch from a selection of search engines (AlltheWeb, AltaVista, Google, etc.), and from news, discussion, business information, images, and research Web sites, including selected services requiring registration and subscription. Research Groups are groups of sources that can be searched at once. Searchers can select from predefined Research Groups or create a personalized Research Group. Spain said the company preselected about 100 sites for the custom group and has hired someone full time to work on adding more. HighBeam also plans to add XML and algorithmic feeds to speed up searching.
Basic membership for HighBeam Research is free upon registration and lets users search, have access to document summaries, and limited access to certain tools. Full membership, available for $99.95 per year or $19.95 per month, includes advanced searching options, unlimited individual access to full-text articles, full use of personalization and storage tools, and the ability to export research to Microsoft Office.
There are currently two tabs on the HighBeam Research interface—one to search eLibrary, the other to search the Web. Spain said the two are separate because of the date problems inherent in searching Web content. He commented that Northern Light had previously provided integrated searching of proprietary and Web content but that he didn't feel it had worked well. Spain said that HighBeam has been experimenting with a tool for sorting Web results by date.
(Note: The "new" Northern Light offers enterprise customers its Business Research Library, which searches editorially selected business Web content and premium licensed content with a single query. NL plans to make the product available to individuals in March 2004. See the NewsBreak: http://newsbreaks.infotoday.com/nbreader.asp?ArticleID=16565.)
The company plans to incorporate Encyclopedia.com with HighBeam Research during the first quarter of 2004. The first new search tab to be added to the HighBeam Research interface will be called Reference, and will offer a range of sources, including specialized dictionaries, thesauri, etc. Following research into customers' interests, another search tab is planned for the first quarter.
The company is putting its development emphasis into further enhancing the tools for organizing results, especially the topic clustering, and into the tools for delivering answers, such as exporting and sharing. Just as a car's high beam lights are brighter, Spain is confident the new service will provide users with a better light on the research process.